Eric Wedge says he likes how his Mariners “are carrying themselves,” which presumably means he didn’t care for how they were being carried on stretchers five days earlier.
But before they are signed out of critical care, consider who is entering — their weekend opponent, the Los Angeles Angels. The sick men of the AL West (9-15), the preseason divisional favorites, have a bad case of bat rot.
As you make your own call on the half-full, half-empty metric, know that in the four-game series concluding with Sunday’s 2-1 Mariners victory, the Angels’ Josh Hamilton was 3-for-16, Mike Trout 3-for-14, Albert Pujols 2-for-15, Howie Kendrick 3-for-13 and Mark Trumbo 3-for-15.
For this kind of hitting, Angels owner Arte Moreno could have walked across the street in Orange County and hired five of the Seven Dwarves, at a steep discount.
In the half-full camp are the Mariners, left for dead by a fan base Wednesday after four losses seven games against the woebegone divisional newbies, the Houston Astros. But the Mariners took three of four from the Angels, including the last two in a row and inched ahead of them into third place in the minimally torrid AL West race. It was the first home series win against the Angels in 10 years — June 16-19, 2003.
“We still have a ways to go offensively,” Wedge said. “But we see certain indicators from certain guys that they’re heading in the right direction. When that translates collectively, we’ll be on our way.”
Wedge’s cautions are wise, since the Mariners’ consecutive one-run wins were scant evidence of dominance. They entered Sunday’s play having scoring 85 runs in 26 games, worst output in the American League. Only twice in the past 13 games have they scored more than three runs.
But only two swings were necessary to chop down the enfeebled Angels. Jason Bay led off the seventh inning with a home run. An inning later, Mike Morse also put one in the left field bullpen.
Both were off Jason Vargas, the former Mariner traded in the off-season for Kendrys Morales. In allowing only six hits and two walks over eight innings, he looked every bit like the No. 2 starter he was in Seattle for the past couple of seasons. He pitched probably his best game of the year, but is 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA because he left up in the middle of the strike zone two fastballs, mistakes he couldn’t afford to make last year with the Mariners and this April with the Angels.
The game-winner was Morse’s seventh homer, but first since April 9. A pitch broke a pinky bone April 11, and he hadn’t been the same since. Until Sunday.
“We wanted to win this series — bad,” said Morse, clearly jacked by the jack. “To square up on a guy like Vargas . . . he was pitching incredibly.
“Early on (after the finger fracture) I was thinking about it, and it was affecting my play. But there’s a lot of guys in here playing with injuries. I’m not thinking about it any more.”
Important as was the run, so was Morse’s improved demeanor.
“Morse has been grinding,” Wedge said. “He’s a fun guy, with a lot of personality and energy. From a personality standpoint, we are seeing from these guys what we need to see every day, regardless of what’s going on, because that will carry us over the top.”
Speaking of over the top, Iwakuma might be the best starting pitcher in the AL at the moment. With no earned runs in six innings, he dropped his ERA to 1.67, and with eight strikeouts, has 19 in his past two games. His mastery of several pitches and ability to repeat his motion and release point are up there with his Japanese countryman, the Rangers’ Yu Darvish.
His only limitation has been a finger blister that develops throughout every start.
“Today he came out (of the game) better than he has,” Wedge said. “Getting him through today was big. If we pushed him one more inning, we’d probably go back to where we were with him.”
Another mild encouragement for the Mariners was that with no trinket incentive such as beard hat night (31,543) or bat night (31,901), 20,638 showed up at Safeco Field. That may not be impressive to many, but when you’ve been sick for almost a month, it’s nice to have visitors just because you’re you.
The Angels know. They would be happy with a bat night.